Let me just preface this whole thing by saying I don’t normally eat barbecue. I know, I know, how am I an Oklahoman? 

click to enlarge Bonnie F. Montgomery delivers BBQ to customers at Earl's on Western. (Shannon Cornman)
  • Shannon Cornman
  • Bonnie F. Montgomery delivers BBQ to customers at Earl's on Western.

Let me just preface this whole thing by saying I don’t normally eat barbecue. I know, I know, how am I an Oklahoman?

However, the allure of Earl’s Rib Palace’s original location on Western Avenue convinced me to try one of Oklahoma City’s favorite barbecue spots. Also, Earl’s has won Best Barbecue Restaurant by voter choice in Oklahoma Gazette’s Best of OKC awards for several years running.

I don’t know what overcame me. I went in, asked to be seated where I could watch the game on the TV and wasn’t bothered by staff when

I changed my mind and started thumbing through YouTube videos on my smartphone. People come here to relax and be themselves — I felt at home at Earl’s.

My waitress was friendly and attentive. I ordered the smoked BBQ chicken ($10.29), which comes with two sides and “Okie” toast. I ordered fried okra and curly fries. To wash it all down, I picked pink lemonade ($1.99).

click to enlarge BBQ Chicken at Earl's with cole slaw and deviled eggs. (Shannon Cornman)
  • Shannon Cornman
  • BBQ Chicken at Earl's with cole slaw and deviled eggs.

Soon, I received my heaping plates of savory food and didn’t know where to start. However, my waitress left me amply prepared for my future messiness with a stack of napkins and a wet wipe. In other words, I knew what was coming: sloppy, saucy hunger annihilation.

In fact, I think I might have perfected the right placement of sides and food-to-mouth ratio to minimize the mess.

I plunged into the smoked BBQ chicken.

It was mixed with the mild barbecue sauce, and I ate it all up wondering why I don’t eat more barbecue. The mild sauce moistened the chicken to perfection and highlighted its smoky flavor.

Oh, that mild barbecue sauce.

It was my favorite part of the entire dinner, and I even asked for some to-go. It was the right combination of sweetness and smokiness to perfectly complement my order. And ... OK, I’ll stop there. It’s really good.

Earl’s truly is the original; it has been around for 18 years and has grown to include six metro locations. Its Western location proudly showcases old-timey automotive decor, complete with license plates and hubcaps on the walls.

I have to admit this: After one bite, I realized the okra was a bit overcooked — too fried? — but I kept coming back for more. Oh, and when it’s topped with ranch dressing, it’s possibly my favorite Southern food. Also, the curly fries were precisely the junk food I needed after my uber-healthy spin class. I’m pretty sure my meal canceled out that class, but that’s OK.

You have to have some so-tasty-it- can’t be-good-for-you food every once in while. Treat yourself.

My waitress made sure my pink lemonade was filled to the brim at all times. And I needed the entire table to myself just to make room for all of my plates. I didn’t come close to eating it all, but that’s what to-go boxes are for.

That said, naturally, I somehow had room for dessert. I ordered the brownie a la mode. Earl’s does not skimp on its dessert portions either. I got two big brownies with three scoops of ice cream ($4.99), made complete with chocolate sauce on top. The brownies were crispy on the edges and soft on the inside. It was a perfectly sweet ending to my meal.

Why is it always so cold in restaurants? This isn’t just an issue at Earl’s either. When the air conditioner wasn’t blasting, I was more comfortable. The bathrooms also are a little dated, but despite that, the Western location was clean and inviting.

Overall, service was attentive and my food was flavorful and filling. I can see why Oklahomans love Earl’s Rib Palace: You get as much food as you can stomach (plus some), served in a homey atmosphere. I only tried one combination, but Earl’s offers many temptations, from smoked turkey breast to jalapeño sausage. Next time someone suggests barbecue, I won’t have to say, “I normally don’t eat that”; I’ll say, “Let’s try Earl’s.” And maybe then I’ll get the ribs with some sweet tea.

Print headline: Meat manor, Earl’s Rib Palace serves up friendly fare with its smoked BBQ chicken. And, oh lord, that mild barbecue sauce.

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Emily Anderson

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